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Specialist Practice: Portfolios and Diplomas

The following information is produced to guide specialist practitioner training,
completion of the portfolio and preparation for the assessment for the award of a
Specialist Diploma. It should be read in conjunction with the information provided in
the portfolio.

Quick introduction

The IBMS has developed the Specialist Portfolio to enable the recognition of
structured, standardised post-registration (newly qualified) training and assessment of
practitioners. The portfolio enables biomedical scientists to provide evidence of
training, practical skills, specialist knowledge and competency gained in the two years
after registration into the profession. Completion of the portfolio and successful
assessment will lead to the awarding of a Specialist Diploma in the disciplines listed

During completion of the portfolio individuals will be gathering evidence of continued
professional development (CPD) and competence to practice.

Agenda for Change will only allow career advancement through its pay bands upon
demonstration of the required knowledge and skills. The portfolio can be used as evidence to
help biomedical scientists seeking promotion to a higher pay band.

The portfolio can also be used by Higher Education Institutions in assessing work-based
learning and accredited learning for postgraduate qualifications; or by employers when
considering eligibility for promotion or identifying education and training needs.

Where possible, National Occupational Standards (NOS) for healthcare scientists have been
incorporated into the standards that constitute the generic and discipline specific components
of the portfolio. The portfolio also maps to the knowledge and skills framework (KSF), which
will be a tool for identifying education and training needs.

About specialist diplomas

Newly registered practitioners who are, as a minimum requirement, Licentiate members of the
Institute have the opportunity to evidence their development of specialist knowledge and
competencies in their chosen field by completion of the Institute’s Specialist Portfolio. On
completion of the portfolio and successful end-point assessment they will be awarded a
Specialist Diploma in one of the following disciplines:

    •   Cellular Pathology
    •   Cytopathology
    •   Clinical Biochemistry
    •   Clinical Immunology
    •   Haematology & Transfusion Science
    •   Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics (developed in conjunction with BSHI)
    •   Medical Microbiology
    •   Transfusion Science
    •   Virology

The Specialist Diploma confers eligibility to upgrade Institute membership from the class of
Licentiate to Member provided the individual has a minimum of 2 years professional
experience as a Licentiate member.

The portfolio is similar in design to the registration portfolio and reflects the range of analyses
performed by most routine laboratories in the UK, although some might not be performed in
the candidate’s own laboratory. There may also be other tests the training laboratory includes
in its repertoire not specifically stated in the portfolio but in which the individual must
demonstrate competence. These can be recorded in the reflective log at the end of each sub-
section. Achievement of the required knowledge and competence of the range of analyses
expresses the ability of the biomedical scientist to operate at the specialist level, i.e. the
capacity to:

i) Work in accordance with good professional practice in partnership with other professionals,
support staff, patients and service users.
ii) Demonstrate an understanding and application of health and safety requirements.
iii) Undertake the correct procedures for the handling of specimens, pre and post analysis.
iv) Use the main laboratory computer system in accordance with service requirements.
v) Maintain and operate equipment used in the preparation and analysis of samples.
vi) Perform a range of laboratory tests without immediate supervision and demonstrate an
understanding of the scientific basis for tests and the disease processes under investigation.
vii) Demonstrate awareness of factors affecting sample integrity, risks associated with the
sample reagents, or method and other tests indicated by the outcome of the analysis.
viii) Understand and apply principles of quality control and quality assurance.

Use of Portfolio and Evidence

The portfolio will contain a completed and signed record of laboratory training in the
designated speciality as evidence of the application of knowledge, comprehension and
analytical skills.

Competence must be achieved by coverage of ALL modules within the chosen disciplines.
Some tests may be considered as ‘core’ and require demonstration of practical competence.
Other tests may only require demonstration of knowledge and understanding that would be
applied to the practical situation, if an investigation were considered to be outside the core
repertoire of a routine laboratory. Short periods of secondment to other Institute approved
laboratories may supplement training in order for the individual to gain additional practical
skills and experience.

Evidence of achievement is based on observation and questions set by the trainer or
individual pieces of work related to the knowledge and competence statements of each
The Evidence of Achievement section indicates the evidence that is required. It is NOT
necessary to provide witness statements to support the signed sections stating “Observed by
trainer to perform…” but the “Questions asked by the trainer…“ and other tasks MUST be
evidenced. This evidence of training and internal assessment of competency should be
contained in a single lever-arch file. This may include: annotated copies of quality control
logs, maintenance schedules, audit trail results, short essays, notes, case studies, as
indicated by the Evidence of Achievement section. Additional evidence that demonstrates
competence may be made available to support the main body of evidence and Specialist
Portfolio; with appropriate cross-referencing. However, this should be contained separately.
Reference material such as copies of SOPS, information from the internet, guidance leaflets
are not regarded as evidence unless appropriately annotated to demonstrate what the
individual has learned and how they might apply this knowledge.

The portfolio will also demonstrate that the individual has reflected on their own performance
as an independent professional learner, thus meeting the requirements for CPD.

Laboratory-based training

To permit eligibility for the award of a Specialist Diploma, in-service training must demonstrate
competence and experience in the stated procedures as ‘fitness to practice’ as a specialist in
the individual’s chosen discipline. The Institute has guidelines and criteria for the approval of
laboratories for pre - and post-registration training and requires training to be in a laboratory
that has met these criteria or can demonstrate it has the potential to meet them (i.e. approval
is confirmed once the portfolio has been completed). Several trainers may be involved and it
is essential that all training is co-ordinated and carried out under the control of a designated
training co-ordinator or training officer.

A training schedule must be prepared and adhered to in accordance with the Institute’s
Standards for Training in the Laboratory and also to meet CPA standard B9.1. The training
co-ordinator/officer should ensure that regular reports on progress from trainers are reviewed
at least once a month, discussed with the individual being trained, and documented. The
object of these review pages is to ensure that a constructive, detailed, and contemporaneous
record is kept, on which future training activities can be based.

Assessment procedure for award of Specialist Diploma

The aims of the assessment procedure are to:

    •   independently verify that competence has been assessed internally and assess the
        candidate to ensure they meet the standard required for the award of a Specialist
    •   ensure consistency between disciplines and between laboratories
    •   check that professional body guidelines and criteria are applied nationally
    •   reassure the employer that their training is to the appropriate standard
    •   disseminate areas of good practice
    •   highlight areas of unsatisfactory practice.

On completion of training, in accordance with the requirements of the Specialist Portfolio, the
candidate's employer (laboratory manager or training officer) should apply to the Institute for
the appointment of a visiting external assessor. The appointed external assessor will be
instructed to contact the laboratory in accordance with the Institute’s procedure to arrange a
mutually convenient assessment date.

The assessment takes place between the external assessor and candidate during which the
assessor establishes confidence in the understanding, ability and practice of the candidate. A
key component of this will be a 15-20 minute presentation during which the candidate
presents a review of their post-registration training experience and current issues important
within their discipline. The external assessor will establish completion of the portfolio as a
record of training in the candidate’s 'specialist' discipline. If some areas of practice are not
undertaken in the candidates employing laboratory, demonstration of appropriate knowledge
and understanding rather than practical competence is acceptable. An important element of
the assessment process is to review the reflective reports associated with each module and
interview of the candidate on aspects of their work raised in the commentary and
presentation. This discussion may be supported by examples contained within an
accompanying portfolio of evidence.

The candidate will also conduct the external assessor on a laboratory tour during which
further aspects of the candidates training and work are explored.

Application form and portfolio reference copies

Reference versions of the portfolios are available in pdf format below. Bound reference copies
for managers and training officers can be obtained from the Institute, priced £25.

Hardback copies for specialist practitioners in training are available, priced £95. This includes
the cost of the portfolio and the end-point assessment for the award of a specialist diploma.
Please note that applicants must be a corporate member of the Institute. The portfolio is not
available to Associate members of the Institute or individuals undertaking pre-registration

The Institute recognise that the Specialist Portfolios may change in line with future
developments within the profession. The version completed by each student, if current at the
time of study, will be recognised.

Specialist portfolios: reference copies

    •   Cellular Pathology
    •   Cytopathology
    •   Clinical Biochemistry
    •   Clinical Immunology
    •   Haematology & Transfusion Science
    •   Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics
    •   Medical Microbiology
    •   Transfusion Science
    •   Virology

Guidance for Candidate, Training Officer and External Assessor

The following guidance is produced to guide final completion of the portfolio and
preparation for the assessment for the award of a Specialist Diploma. As with the
information above it should be read in conjunction with the information provided in the

Role of the External Visitor appointed by the Institute
The external assessor for Specialist Portfolios (in the past referred to as external verifier) is
undertaking the dual role of assessor/examiner and verifier. These individuals must be
prepared to review portfolios to verify appropriate training has been undertaken and
completed, and to assess the candidate through their oral presentation and orally examine
them during the laboratory tour to determine their suitability for the award of the Specialist
Diploma. Laboratory trainers are guided that in the context of Specialist Portfolios assessing
competence to perform duties commensurate to the level of a Specialist Practitioner in the
laboratory is the responsibility of the employer. The Institute’s role is to verify this has
happened (by checking the portfolio for evidence of training and assessment of competence)
and also assess the ability of the candidate to demonstrate an understanding of the scientific
basis for tests, quality control, quality assurance, quality management, health and safety and
use of equipment commensurate with the learning outcomes in the portfolio. The Institute’s
representative will also make an assessment on whether or not the laboratory meets the
requirements for the award of training approval by the Institute. (This does not require a full

This process enables the Institute to award a Specialist Diploma to individuals that meet the
criteria and also award a Certificate to show “Approved Training Laboratory” status.

Presentation (15-20 mins)
Presentations are to ensure the practitioner can describe their scope of practice and show an
understanding of their role in the laboratory. The presentation must be in PowerPoint format.
If projection facilities are not available it can be viewed on a computer screen. It is expected
that the 15-20 minute presentation will contain the following elements:

•    Scope of practice and how it has developed since registration based on the reflective
     practice elements of the portfolio
•    Current develops in the laboratory or recent trends
•    Special interests or professional activities of the individual

Presentations need not be overcomplicated, should be structured to reflect the areas in which
experience has been gained and act as a prompt for the dialogue which supports the work
done in the specialist diploma.

The candidate’s presentation skills are not being tested so notes are acceptable. However,
they should be to support the presentation and the candidate would normally read them

The external assessor may which to ask some questions related to the presentation or seek
points of clarification.

            Criteria for Assessment of Presentation                    Standard      Standard
                                                                       Not Met       Met
Presentation was 15-20 mins
Presentation described individuals scope of practice
Presentation highlighted current trends in the laboratory
Presentation highlighted specialist interests or activities
General comments:

Portfolios (60 mins)
Assessors should aim to review the portfolio in one hour which is sufficient to review the
evidence contained in a single lever arch file. More evidence than this is deemed as
excessive although assessors should not use this as a reason to fail to the candidate. It is
acceptable for the external assessor to check with the laboratory before the visit that evidence
is limited to one file, and if not, request that it is.

There should be a signed statement from the laboratory manager testifying to the range of
laboratory investigations undertaken by the candidate. (see Section 2: Use of the Portfolio,
paragraph 2.7). This can be used by the external assessor to guide the areas for questioning
during the laboratory tour. It is acceptable for external assessors to request this prior to the
visit when they finalise arrangements with the laboratory.

Evidence in the portfolio should follow the same principles as evidence for registration
portfolios. However, the EVIDENCE OF ACHIEVEMENT section is more prescriptive. The
signed observation of practice does not require a separate witness statement in addition
(unlike the Registration Portfolio) but there should be evidence of responses to questions,
comparative lists (advantages/disadvantages of a technique) and case studies as indicated in
this section. Evidence should be indexed in the same order as the Specialist Portfolio and
reflect the requirements of the EVIDENCE OF ACHIEVEMENT section. Additional (optional)
supporting evidence of training may be provided and referred to if required.

“Questions asked by the trainer” are informed by the knowledge component of each
module. Evidence should support the fact that candidates understand their role and reflect
the knowledge component of the sections, either through self-directed tasks that reflect
questions they have been asked, set (and marked) questions or notes from tutorials.
Evidence should be dated and signed by the candidate/training officer as appropriate.

Following the EVIDENCE OF ACHIEVEMENT section the Institute’s portfolios should be
signed by the internal person who has checked that evidence against the required
competences has been acquired.

The reflective practice sheets are intended to demonstrate that the candidate has developed
in the application of their practice.

           Criteria for Assessment of Portfolio                   Standard   Standard
                                                                  Not Met    Met
Signed statement from laboratory manager regarding
candidates’ scope of practice
Evidence of achievement sections had been completed and
Evidence reflected the requirements of the Evidence of
Achievement Section, e.g. answered questions set by
Reflective practice sheets completed
General Comments:

Laboratory Tour (Maximum 60 mins)
The tour should not exceed 60 mins which should be sufficient time to assess the candidate’s
knowledge, even in a large department. The candidate should be able to respond to
questions asked by the external assessor based on the knowledge components of the
portfolio and their scope of practice. The candidate should be able to demonstrate they have
knowledge of the underlying principles and practice of laboratory investigations they have
performed. If the candidate is involved in training it is reasonable to expect them to explain
how they do this. They should be able to explain NEQAS results, and demonstrate that they
know how to apply health and safety. In doing so they demonstrate (in conjunction with their
presentation and portfolio of evidence) that they meet the learning outcomes detailed in the
introductory section of the portfolio.

       Criteria for Assessment of Laboratory Tour                 Standard   Standard
                                                                  Not Met    Met
Candidate was able to demonstrate knowledge of the correct
procedures for handling specimens, pre and post analysis
Candidate demonstrated an understanding of the application
of health & safety requirements
Candidate was able to answer questions on the principles
and practice of laboratory investigations
Candidate was able to demonstrate they knew how to
operate and maintain equipment
Candidate was able to demonstrate they understood and
could apply principles of quality control and quality assurance
General Comments:
Approval of laboratory for Specialist Training
The Institute has published guidance and criteria for approval of laboratories for pre and post
registration training. These are currently being updated.

Based on the current criteria the laboratory tour also gives the external assessor an
opportunity to judge that the laboratory has the appropriate facilities for training against the
following checklist.

Facility to                      Observations                  Comments
                     Unsatisfactory           Adequate


supports training
culture and

e.g. meetings

Training policy

Training officers


H&S issues

Do you want to be an External Assessor for Specialist Portfolios?

Becoming a specialist portfolio assessor provides an excellent opportunity for CPD and for
engaging with other biomedical scientists that share a common interest in training and
maintaining professional standards. If you meet the following criteria please complete the
application form and register on our database of external assessors. Training will be given.

    •   Chartered Scientist member of the Institute of Biomedical Science
    •   HPC registered (or equivalent registration authority for non-UK members)
    •   Currently practicing in an Institute approved training laboratory with a minimum of 4
        years experience post registration experience as a registered practitioner.
    •   Actively participating in the Institute’s CPD scheme.
    •   Have attended an Institute approved training course for Specialist Assessors.
Please contact for further information.

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